Category Archives: Competitions

Beta or Worse?

Okay, so you’ve written a book and you’ve got a cover.

When you’re happy, do you go ahead and publish, or do you take it steady and make sure it’s readable?

Personally, I ask for beta readers and the more the merrier, whether it be a novel or a         collection of short stories. Yes, there might be a few issues in the final product but they also appear in books by acclaimed traditionally-published authors. Errors can be cut down dramatically with some effort and patience. It’s the responsibility of the author to produce the best book they can.

Before I send a manuscript to readers I’ll have gone at least as far as the third draft and on at least two occasions printed the story to perform a ‘red-pen’ edit. Even then, I tend to offer my beta readers a handful of things I’m    concerned about—a reader’s guide if you like:

Does the intro work? Is the dialogue realistic? Are the characters believable? Did you enjoy the story?

The list can be as long as the author feels necessary, but it’s hoped that the beta reader will highlight other issues too. If you create your characters and your imaginary world with care and attention to detail it will help to make the end product believable.

I’ve performed beta reading for many indie authors. Each book is different in length, style, author’s voice and topic. Not every book might be one I’d go looking for as reading material, but if it will help a fellow author I’m glad to do what I can if I can afford the time.

No, I’m not an editor but my expertise is that of the   reader who knows when something isn’t right in a variety of areas.

I know for example that firing an automatic pistol at a padlock or a door lock is about as much good as throwing your pen at it. Similarly, the only time firing a handgun at an escaping car will work is in movie-land. I know when to use farther instead of further, and inquiry rather than enquiry. No, a cowboy wasn’t thrown against the barn door by the ‘blast’ from a Colt 45, and I don’t care how close his adversary might have been. They’d need to be close just to hit one another. Cars don’t explode simply because they’ve overturned, and some blades don’t slide straight back out of the body after being thrust inward and upward.

Consistency and continuity are important to me and they are not the same thing.

Regarding consistency, I’m looking for a character’s name to always have one spelling, unless a nickname is used, and if a character has blue eyes, then they shouldn’t have brown eyes in the next chapter.

In continuity, I expect that when a character gets into a blue Jaguar and drives somewhere, they don’t get out of a red BMW at their destination.

To avoid rereading I prefer that no two characters use the same weapon, drive the same car or have similar names.

Two characters should not have their voices heard in the same paragraph but it seems to happen in a lot of eBooks. Sentences should also be manageable so that by the time you reach the end you remember the subject.

Dialogue tags don’t always have to be descriptive because the imagery and the dialogue ought to be creating the picture.

It’s fine, even preferable for a character to have a favourite word or phrase but not an author. Think about that one.

One of my greatest gripes is an author who doesn’t know their subject. Take for example the case of the famous   author who’s BDSM character introduces a young woman to mild punishment by giving her a traumatic thrashing with a leather belt, or … no, I’ll leave erotica out of this. Some misguided ideas would make your eyes water.

You get the idea … research, research, research, and don’t just use Google.

If you have space and are physically capable, get out of your chair and try the move you’ve just choreographed. How about:

Getting out of the car, she touched-up her lip gloss and lifted her purse.

No, she didn’t do it all while ‘getting out of the car’ she performed three separate actions.

Recently, I’ve spent a lot of time beta-reading for fellow indies and one of the things I feel that it does is help me in my writing. When I see an issue it tends to stand out and I learn from it, so it’s much less likely that I’ll do it in my work. Invariably, I gain confidence in my writing by seeing that in many cases I know when something is wrong or could be improved.

As an author, I’m aware of how important it is that I read regularly and widely. Thankfully because I’m a member of Kindle Unlimited I’ve been able to start and discard three books in the past couple of weeks. Unfortunate,   perhaps, but if those authors had taken the time to ask for a beta reader or two and I’d finished their books, I might have become a fan.

This article isn’t a rant, I’m highlighting an area of our craft that all indie authors should consider.

All comments are appreciated as always.

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P.S. Yes, I have changed my blog theme again. 🙂

Producing an Anthology

 

Have you ever considered producing an anthology of short stories?

Perhaps you’ve written short stories and never considered creating a collection, or you’re a novelist who shuns the short story discipline to concentrate on longer work.

My first anthology was a project, a challenge, a dream, and a nightmare all before it became a reality.

I’d written numerous short stories and won competitions, but Smoke & Mirrors: and other stories was my first foray into compiling an anthology. Should I aim for a theme or go multi-genre? Is it best to go with a complete set of original work or include something which has been commended? Go it alone or ask other people to donate a story?

The questions pile up about ten seconds after the decision to tackle such a project.

I’m pleased to report that stories from that first collection are still referred to in reviews, which is heartwarming. It is also a testament to the credibility of the stories and justifies their inclusion. I’ve now compiled seven anthologies including The Welcome: and other Sci-Fi stories created by inviting other authors to join me.

When I compiled ‘The Welcome’ it was never about earning money, it was always intended as a platform for fellow authors from the IASD and me to get examples of our work out there. No, the collection hasn’t made me a millionaire although the book continues to sell the occasional copy. Thanks to Amazon’s peculiar attitude to customers spending a set amount of money before being allowed to comment, there are now fewer reviews being posted.

I suppose I should come clean and admit that if you’re a multi-genre author like me there is a constant need to work on a new anthology. If writing short stories appeals to you then the next logical step must be producing a range of your work instead of keeping it aside waiting for the opportunity a competition offers.

Would you prefer to keep all the stories in one genre, or might you find it easier to mix the genre?

The two main routes to go are theme-based or genre-based, and then, of course, you can go it alone or invite work from others. Apart from anything else, it’s a great way to hone your writing skills.

I enjoy reading and writing short stories. In the Resources section of my blog, apart from tips on the discipline of Writing a Short Story and Competition Writing I have sections regarding anthologies, Creating an Anthology, and Theme or Genre-based?

The key, as with all writing projects is the desire to take on the mission.

If you are more inclined to work on novels, you’ll appreciate that your manuscript needs some downtime, and one of the most useful ways of dealing with this I’ve found is to work on a couple of short stories. Sometimes the distraction produces further inspiration for the novel.

Have you considered inviting fellow authors to join you in creating a collection?

If you have a favourite genre or theme you could create a collection of your short stories or use yours as a base and mix in stories donated by other authors. You are in control.

When you get right down to it, you are practising your writing craft by producing short stories so why not take that next step and build up a few and make them the ‘chapters’ of your first anthology.

I dare you—you’ll be hooked.

My next anthology, due publication in 2020, starts with a factual story, so once again, another twist. The aim for me is to produce a collection of twelve original tales supplemented by three ‘bonus’ stories which are selected from my other anthologies. This creates value for the reader and provides a platform for the other work by the author.

 

Thank you for dropping by, and, as always, comments are welcomed.

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Rhyme & REASON – Now Available

 

The importance of the work in this collection could easily be overlooked, but I’ll say why later in the post. For now, I will tell you that most of the contents have never been published outside of a poetry site.

My first efforts at creative writing (where it would be seen), were with poetry in 2007. It took a few individual pieces to get the hang of it and then I felt the need to take things a stage further—the serial poem, or as some call it, ‘story’ poem.

Again, my early efforts were relatively short, at perhaps a series of two, three, or four poems, but I always aimed to have a logical introduction and a satisfactory ending. The stories got longer and the plots more intricate and in a short time, I was recognised as the ‘serial’ poet on the website. The acclaim I received must have gone to my head because the serial poems got longer.

Why do I suggest that the work in this collection is important?

Honey, my New York detective was born and raised in a poem series. Yes, the main character in the novel A Taste of Honey. The story may not be the same, but the idea and the general background supplied the idea of a young woman capable of deadly vengeance.

Anybody who has read my Beyond the Law trilogy will be acquainted with Hawk, the codename for the main character. The Hawk was an individual poem, but it was so well received I had to go on—for twenty-six poems.

Many of my short stories started life as a simple poem, long before they evolved into detailed stories within an anthology. Pawnee Express, and Anne: Illegal Alien both come to mind.

As I do with all of my writing, I aim to entertain, but with my poetry, I work hard to demonstrate that anybody can write poetry and on any topic. Many of the poems in this collection were written to meet a poetry challenge, like tackling a certain subject, and this to me was a crucial lesson–you don’t know until you try.

What can you expect to find in this anthology?

Romans, Cowboys and Indian, Medieval England, Fantasy, Terrorism, Thriller, Military, Sci-Fi and more. For those who’ve never read my poetry, I’ve included a selection of work from my genre-based poetry anthologies.

I know, I know—I’m holding you back from downloading the book.

If you’re curious, I’ve added three samples to the Rhyme & Reason sub-menu on this blog.

Amazon Preview/Buy

BookLinker – Universal

Thank you for reading.

Shy and Retiring …

 

       A ‘fresh’ early morning – October 2017

Okay, so the ‘shy’ is no longer accurate, but ‘retiring’ will provide me with a renewed freedom. My second career (retail), has now ended and I’m a few days away from my 65th birthday. I’ve worked and paid my dues for fifty years, and I’m ready to chill-out.

What lies ahead?

I’ve listed a handful of projects to get me underway which includes a couple of days revisiting the various items in my garage, shed, and of course the attic. Apart from those small, ongoing jobs I’ve got a couple of major redecorating tasks lined up.

I’ll be continuing to draw and paint, but new hobbies on the horizon are baking and organising a vegetable patch. If the baking idea works out and I’m not totally useless I’m not worried about weight issues because I’ll also be continuing with my cycling. As recently as the weekend past I’ve ordered a new mountain bike to complement my racing bike. There are times when a writer who rides, needs to tangle with tough terrain.

In keeping with the purpose of this blog, this post is about my writing, but I’ve given an introduction to put recent followers in the picture about the person behind the titles.

I will no longer be going out to play my public part in the rat-race, but I believe my writing will be enriched by a more relaxed attitude to each day. When I stepped down from management a couple of years ago I felt a weight lifted, and my creative output rapidly increased in volume and quality.

Where will my writing go in the future?

I began with poetry and moved on to short stories before novels and novellas. My best work has been in the area of Thrillers and Romance, but I’ve also ventured into Sci-Fi and Erotica. Having attempted and realised the difficulties, I’ve left behind the option of writing for children – which is a very specialised craft. I believe we should all be aware of our limitations as well as our abilities.

I’m considering attempts at Horror, Paranormal, or Fantasy, but I’ll be leaving them until early next year, by which time my three present WIPs will be at an advanced stage.

 

How will I tackle such things as new genre?

Personally, I find an early morning, long, solo cycle ride an ideal environment to let the mind wander. While getting dressed I listen to appropriate classical music, and as I set off on my ride I consider the genre on which I want to focus. I’ll report back as and when I have new ideas developing.

 

 

What else is in the pipeline?

I’ve created many of my own covers, but used a designer for the thrillers and romance novels. I’ve been in touch with my cover designer and as we reach the new year I hope to have professional covers to support my fact-based fiction series, A Life of Choice.

What about paperback versions of my books?

This is an idea I’ve toyed with over the past two years, but I’m cautious.

It is a time-consuming task, and from all I’ve heard, the pricing is too high and not competitive. Yes, it would be nice to have my work in a physical format, but I’d prefer to be producing stories.

What’s in the mix for the near future?

To celebrate 48 years since I signed up to serve ‘Queen and Country’, there is a military theme to my final freebies. I will then end the monthly giveaways. As a thank you for all who read this post, there follows a couple of dates for your diary.

What else is cooking?

I’ve no doubt a few of you who have read my work will have smiled at the thought of me baking. At the present time I have no intentions of creating a new blog based on my new hobby, but for amusement I might slip in the odd photo of my efforts – successes and failures, although I hope to have many more of the former.

As always, thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts and intentions. All comments are welcome.

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Kindle, or Kobo?

The aim of this piece is to look at the two systems as a writer, and not a reader.

Why?

When it comes to eReaders there is a wide choice, and the prices reflect that choice.

As a writer, I first published with Smashwords, but apart from learning a lot about formatting, and how difficult it was to be paid for my sales … well, let’s not go there.

I moved on to Amazon and tried the KDP route. It took an hour to read the Terms and Conditions, but at least I knew where I stood by the time it came to ticking, or un-ticking little boxes.

Sales were reported, and hey, I was paid regularly. I continued to publish my work through Amazon, and when it was offered, I ventured into the KDP Select programme to gain from the many benefits offered … yeah, whatever.

Having spent many months with Amazon, I published three titles with Kobo, believing that with the big advertising campaign in the UK, it had to be a winner. Perhaps I was the only person in the country seeing the ads, or my work didn’t appeal to anybody with a Kobo.

Three months later I dropped my titles and put all my eggs in the Amazon basket, and topped off the basket by also placing them on the KDP Select listing.

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Three years have passed, and I’ve commenced building a portfolio with Kobo. If you’re familiar with KDP Select you will know there is a 90-day exclusivity clause involved. All of my titles were ‘locked-in’, but now as they are available I am publishing in both Amazon and Kobo, but not in any of the select programmes.

What has changed?

Kobo has improved, having ironed out many of the issues which existed three years ago, and now I find myself with twenty-plus titles, many of which sell regularly. I’m confident in my work, and I’m giving Kobo a six-month trial with a selection of my titles. Later in this post I’ll explain which are being left out of the equation, and why.

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If you’re a writer and you didn’t already know, Kindle and Kobo both have an exclusive loyalty programme to which you can assign your titles.

Kindle has the KDP Select:

1 – Earn higher royalties from *Kindle Unlimited and *Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, plus 70% royalties when your titles are bought in a handful of selected countries.

*Both programmes are subscription based for those who are reading the books.

2 – Use of two promotional tools (Kindle Countdown, or Free Book).

Kobo Writing Life has the Kobo Plus programme.

Kobo Plus equates roughly to KDP Select, in that the author is paid if a title is borrowed by a subscriber to the programme.

On the author side of Kobo I’ve found plenty of services. The distribution for Kobo published material is wider across the globe without having to enter into any ‘exclusive’ programme.

Kobo appears to concentrate the ‘loyalty/reward’ aspect of the business on the readers, which is fine, because those of us who write and self-publish are (or should be) readers.

If you should know differently on any of the aforementioned, please let me know.

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Tom Benson – Amazon Author Page              Tom Benson on Kobo

I’m watching closely for the first month as I select and publish titles with Kobo, and if I see sales, I’ll add more titles. When I have most of my titles in both camps, I’ll monitor sales until end October 2017.

I will not be publishing my erotica titles with Kobo due to their strict guidelines, and I’d prefer not to get into a legal tangle because I disagreed with their opinion of what is, or isn’t erotica.

As always, thank you for reading and commenting.

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My Writing Year – 2016

 

The updated catalogue:

first-twenty

As I did for 2015, I gave myself ten targets for 2016:

1.   Publication of A Life of Choice – Part One

2.   Production of Codename: Koki by Malcolm Beadle

3.   Revision of each of my novels.

4.   Publication of A Time for Courage: and other military stories

5.  Produce artwork to accompany Whisper Wood, my submission for the IASD Children’s anthology

6.   Produce a short story for the next themed IASD anthology

7.  Produce one of my present novels as a paperback using CreateSpace

8 Ongoing maintenance and improvement of the IASD website / blog

9.   Read and review more titles from the IASD catalogue

10. Support of the IASD members in whatever capacity I am able

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How did the reality match up to the good intentions?

publications-of-2016

In terms of writing it’s been a year of the series for me, and apart from those mentioned, I’ve been working on Beyond The Law: Consequences, which will bring the trilogy to a close. I found writing a sequel a daunting task, but the final part of the story is proving more of a challenge. I aim to produce the book in early 2017.

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1.  I created the artwork to accompany my poem Whisper Wood for the IASD Children’s anthology.

2.  I revised and heavily edited my published work which took between two to three weeks for each book.

3.  In conjunction with the other Admins, I made a few visits to the IASD blog/website to update and keep members abreast of our news. The Featured Author will be continuing in 2017.

4.  An unexpected occurrence was becoming the mentor for a newbie erotica author. I read the debut title and found the story and writing failed in several areas. The few public reviews were praising the story, but none were justified in my opinion. Instead of damning the book publicly I left a comment on another reader’s review.

The story author got in touch and was keen to know more. I told him I wasn’t an expert, but his work needed more substance. At his request I provided a critique of the story. He pulled the book from Amazon, reworked it and sent it to me for a second opinion. It was much improved and he’s now working on his next title.

5.  I was the beta reader for a couple of our IASD authors, and I read and reviewed several books by members.

barn-owl-96.  I’ve taken brief breaks by drawing and by updating my Tom Benson Author website and my Creative Writer and Artist website.snowy-owl-004

 

In certain areas I achieved more than I expected, but there were casualties in my battle-plan.

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1.  I spent two months revising and editing Codename Koki for Malcolm Beadle, but it appears my mix of honesty, integrity, and expectation were too much. I haven’t heard from Malcolm for a few months, but I’m sure he’s working on the story and other projects.

2.  I have yet to create a paperback, so perhaps 2017 will be the year for me to try CreateSpace.

Blogging A to Z 20164 . On the social scene I had a timely reminder I am not a blogger who writes, but a writer who blogs. I entered the 2016 A to Z Challenge with the best of intentions, but after a few days I abandoned the attempt. Having completed the challenge before, I recalled many hours spent responding and reviewing and in honesty, I couldn’t justify the time. I had difficulty maintaining an interest.

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5.  Among my aims I wanted to cut down on casual social networking, and concentrate on reading and writing. I’ve been true to my goals for most of the time. This year I’ve tried to strike a balance. Not many reviews will have been seen from me because I’ve dipped into my TBR, but I’ve also read from my large collection of paperbacks.

I have an allegiance to the Indie Author Support and Discussion group, and it will remain the exception to my personal rule about social media visits.

Exposure of my writing has been assisted by my monthly ‘Freebie’ weekends on Amazon. I’ll be continuing my monthly giveaways in the coming year.

What do I have planned for 2017?

Once again my year will be dominated by ‘series’ but I’ll give more detail in my first blog post of 2017. I have an ambitious number of titles lined up for completion. A lot of the groundwork is laid and I continue to work across titles simultaneously.bike-shots-plus-033

Retirement late in 2017 means I’ll devote more time to my passion, and to my renewed interest in cycling, which is where I do a lot of my thinking and scene setting.

As always, thank you for your time, and comments.

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The Title Fight

 

The First Sixteen (2)
So many titles fighting to be the chosen one ….

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Writers by nature will read an abundance of ‘top tips’ on their craft.

Is it because we all want to be the best?

Smoke & Mirrors - 030714 2
An individual story title, which is itself a well-known phrase.

I would suggest not. Whatever our reasons for writing, I believe the majority of us read top tips to improve our craft.

We don’t want to be the one whom everybody else is calling ‘comma man’, or ‘she who loves exclamation marks!!!

The driving force for us is to write, followed by the desire to do so to the best of our ability.

Some of us will work tirelessly, aiming to improve with every sentence, paragraph, chapter, and ultimately book – or title.

We are in this strange world through personal choice. We learn through comments, suggestions, tips, textbooks, and sheer hard work. We want what works best on several levels.

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Titles are right up there in the ‘top tips’.

Personally, I’ve given up on the 1,001 theories. For example: Should we avoid anything which sounds like a famous book or film? Should we use a cliché? Should we use one word, or a phrase? The list of methods is endless.

TomB4
The basis of the story

In the end, it is an individual choice.

Take for example the title of this article. I’ve checked over many hundreds of blog posts and found there is little correlation between the day an article is posted and its success.

Where have I found the most comments, or most success?

Yes, for me, the secret is in a catchy title.

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When I choose a title for a poem, short story, or novel it sometimes takes longer than the piece of work. I can end up with a considerable list, but the deliberation is worthwhile.

I can honestly say I wouldn’t change the title of any of my individual short stories or books, because I spent so long getting to the end result.

This blog post is an exception, because I came up with the title first.

Recruits outside a Sandhurst Block in Catterick
A series title with a meaningful sub-title for each part.

For my various books I’ve tried to use a title which would work without a book cover. I know it will sound strange if you’re a writer, because we constantly discuss how important the cover is for a book.

What about a blind or partially-sighted person who judges by what they hear?

They might depend on ‘hearing’ the book. They’ll hear a list of titles, and they’ll hear the blurbs, but they might never ‘see’ the cover, so it becomes meaningless.

I want my titles to convey an image before the cover is created.

You’ll have seen notes under the books I’ve chosen to highlight in this article. Clicking on these graphics will take you to the book’s page.

If you’ve read this far I sincerely hope you’ve enjoyed my theories, and perhaps you’ll take something away from here.

Highland Games - 1 (2)
A play on words, using a euphemism for the new novella series.

I thank you for seeing the title of the post and taking an interest.

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